The State of the UK’s Birds 2020

From BTO

The State of UK’s Birds reports have provided an annual overview of the status of breeding and non-breeding bird species in the UK and its Overseas Territories since 1999. This year’s report highlights the continuing poor fortunes of the UK’s woodland birds.

SUKB collates data from annual, periodic and one-off surveys and monitoring studies of birds, such as the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), Rare Breeding Birds Panel (RBBP), the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS), Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP) and Goose and Swan Monitoring Programme (GSMP). In addition, the 2020 report also includes results from the Nest Record Scheme, Constant Effort Sites (CES) Scheme and Re-trapping Adults for Survival (RAS) Scheme, the latter two schemes collecting demographic information through the efforts of bird ringers.

The report takes information from these and other schemes, research and surveys and delivers information at a country-specific scale, as well as providing an overview for the UK as a whole.

Volunteers play an essential role in bird monitoring in the UK, by donating their time, energy and expertise. The data they collect are vital for conservation, tracking changes in populations and supporting policy development. This year, many monitoring schemes have been adversely affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic and we want to say a special thank you to all of our volunteers for their continued support through this difficult time. Their skill, effort and dedication deserve huge recognition.

Woodland species

This year’s report highlights the continuing poor fortunes of the UK’s woodland birds. The UK Wild Bird Populations Indicator for woodland species show a long-term decline of 27% since the early 1970s, with declines of 7% evident over just the last five years. More worryingly, when looking at individual trends within the report, some specialist woodland birds have declined dramatically, including willow tit with a 94% decline since 1970 as illustrated by the joint Common Birds Census / Breeding Bird Survey UK-wide trend.

After worrying declines in breeding tawny owl populations were flagged-up by the Breeding Bird Survey, BTO launched targeted survey work on this species during 2018 and 2019. SUKB reports on some of the results from this research, which revealed a decline in site occupancy from 65% in 2005 to 53% in 2018/19. The BTO work has also sought to understand some of the reasons for this change in fortunes.

Results at different scales

Data from many of the surveys covered in SUKB also feed into European-wide schemes and the SUKB report goes from celebrating the publication of the latest European Breeding Bird Atlas, through to finer-scale country-specific results and research. Not bad for an 80-page report!

Country-specific headlines include increases in house sparrow populations in Wales, where work is also taking place to address the pronounced decline in curlew numbers. In Scotland, the fragile status of corncrake is highlighted, alongside increases in farmland species such as tree sparrow and yellowhammer. The Northern Ireland pages look into changing fortunes of seabirds and explore how proposed marine Special Protection Areas may be used to tackling the observed decline. The Northern Ireland pages also examine declines in wintering geese, such as light-bellied brent goose. Finally, over to England and promising results for stone curlew conservation work, as well as reporting back on the English Winter Bird Survey for which 1,485 sites were surveyed by volunteers to help us understand the value of agri-environment options.

As in previous reports, we hear about species from 14 UK Overseas Territories and three Crown Dependencies – including black-browed albatross, St Helena plover and South Georgia pipit, about the Gough Island Restoration Programme, and discover that 69 species in the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies are now Globally Threatened.

Closer to home, 25 years of BTO Garden BirdWatch is also celebrated, with goldfinch now the 8th most commonly recorded garden bird, up from 20th back in 1995.

Volunteers

There is a common theme in this report: volunteers. The sheer enormity of their contributions to bird monitoring as a whole is evident throughout this report. Most of the surveys and schemes covered here are only possible thanks to the dedication and skills of the thousands of volunteers who give up their time to help monitor birds and in turn, inform conservation action. Thank you.

Who produces this report?

SUKB 2020 is produced by a coalition of three NGOs: the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), together with the UK’s statutory nature conservation bodies: Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland (DAERA), the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), Natural England (NE), Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and NatureScot.

Download The State of the UK’s Birds 2020 here 

 

Chough report: December 2020

Green, the oldest chough in Jersey's flock, has reared eleven young in the wild since his release in 2013. Photo by Liz Corry

December 2020 has been our quietest month to date. Partly pandemic-related as staff and student make a desperate bid to use up annual leave. A 10-day stint of isolation was thrown in for festive ‘fun’ (direct contact with a positive case).

Moreover, the choughs kept themselves to themselves. No injuries to report. No births, deaths, or marriages. Travel to France on hold – no more chough flights and no human travel either. Condor Ferries cancelled its service until April 2021. Pleased to say Cappy the Carteret chough is still alive! We will have to wait until next year to go visit.

As December draws to a close and we say good riddance 2020, it just leaves me to say a big thank you to the project volunteers for their time and support this year.

Happy New Year!

Sunset at St Ouen’s Bay. Photo by Liz Corry.

Biological diversity evokes human happiness

From PHYS.ORG 

Researchers have found that more bird species in the vicinity increase the life contentment of Europeans at least as much as a comparable increase in income.

Under the current pandemic conditions, activities out in nature are a popular pastime. The beneficial effects of a diverse nature on people’s mental health have already been documented by studies on a smaller scale. Scientists of the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and the University of Kiel examined for the first time whether a diverse nature also increases human well-being on a Europe-wide scale.

To this end, the researchers used the data from the “2012 European quality of Life Survey” to study the connection between the species diversity in their surroundings and the life satisfaction in more than 26,000 adults from 26 European countries. Species diversity was measured based on the diversity of avian species, as documented in the European breeding bird atlas.

“Europeans are particularly satisfied with their lives if their immediate surroundings host a high species diversity,” explains the study’s lead author, Joel Methorst, from the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center, the iDiv, and the Goethe University in Frankfurt, and he continues, “According to our findings, the happiest Europeans are those who can experience numerous different bird species in their daily life, or who live in near-natural surroundings that are home to many species.”

Birds are well-suited as indicators of biological diversity, since they are among the most visible elements of the animate nature—particularly in urban areas. Moreover, their song can often be heard even if the bird itself is not visible, and most birds are popular, and people like to watch them. But there is also a second aspect that affects life satisfaction: the surroundings. A particularly high number of bird species can be found in areas with a high proportion of near-natural and diverse landscapes that hold numerous greenspaces and bodies of water.

“We also examined the socio-economic data of the people that were surveyed, and, much to our surprise, we found that avian diversity is as important for their life satisfaction as is their income,” explains Prof. Katrin Böhning-Gaese, director of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center. This result becomes particularly obvious when both values increase by ten percent. Fourteen additional bird species in the vicinity raise the level of life satisfaction at least as much as an extra 124 Euros per month in the household account, based on an average income of 1,237 Euro per month in Europe.

According to the study, a diverse nature, therefore, plays an important role for human well-being across Europe—even beyond its material services. At the same time, the researchers draw attention to impending health-related problems. “The Global Assessment 2019 by the World Biodiversity Council IPBES and studies of avian species in agricultural landscapes in Europe clearly show that the biological diversity is currently undergoing a dramatic decline. This poses the risk that human well-being will also suffer from an impoverished nature. Nature conservation, therefore, not only ensures our material basis of life, but it also constitutes an investment in the well-being of us all,” adds Methorst in conclusion.

Download the paper The importance of species diversity for human well-being in Europe here

Chough report: September 2020

Choughs foraging at Les Landes Racecourse. Photo by Liz Corry.

We don’t have much to say for September. Thankfully. The public can’t stop talking about choughs! Whether it be via website, WhatsApp, email, or simply stopping me in the street, the reports have come in thick and fast.

The birds are spending more time flocking together now the pressure of the breeding season is behind them. Quite literally going where the wind takes them, often to areas they already use just in greater numbers. Makes it nice and obvious to onlookers. The chattering of choughs is hard to ignore.

Les Landes Racecourse is once again proving popular. Both with birds and people. Easy access by car, pleasant pathways to stroll or walk dogs off lead, and stunning summer views across to the other Channel Islands. Obviously from the people’s point of view. For choughs, and plenty of other bird species, there appeared to be an abundance of invertebrate food attracting them to the site.

Beanie Baby and Beaker were two such birds visiting Les Landes. One report of the pair described them to be with a third unringed bird. Could this be Xaviour?! If she had lost all the plastic rings the remaining metal can often be hard to see depending on the angle of the sun. Another, more exciting option is that the third was an unringed chick. Sorry Xaviour, but a fledged chick from a wild pair out trumps your card. We’ve not had further sightings to lend support to either theory.

Beaker (left) and Beanie Baby at Grosnez. Photo by Mick Dryden.

Under the category of ‘not surprising, but still a first’

A pair of choughs have been frequenting the fields near The Elms, headquarters of the National Trust for Jersey. Seems only fair. They’ve ticked off Durrell headquarters already. Next month Howard Davis Farm to say hello to the Government of Jersey’s Environment team?

Another pair rested on the chimney of the observer’s home in St Peter’s before heading off. This lane is sandwiched between the Airport and Les Mielles in St Ouen’s Bay. An airport might not sound like the best place for a bird to be, but it is surrounded by chough-friendly habitat. The sand pits, home a pair last year, is very close by. Could this be an indication that a new pair have moved in?   

Choughs have been spotted close to St Ouen’s Bay and Jersey Airport. Image by Google Earth.

Closer to Sorel, a gentleman sent in two reports of choughs at La Tête de Frémont and Bonne Nuit Bay. I’m surprised we don’t get more sightings in this area given the dramatic cliffs and suitable foraging habitat. It is also a likely route for them to take if heading over to Les Platons.

File these under ‘need to know more’

We’ve had a reliable report of chough over Grouville Common. An, historic report from nearby Gorey village was more likely the resident jackdaws. There have been choughs checking out Gorey Castle in past years. Grouville Common is a little too woody to appeal to choughs. It does, however, join up to the Royal Jersey Golf Course. Plenty of short grass and close to the high tide strand line of Longbeach if the choughs fancied a maritime invertebrate mix in their diet.

The fairways of Royal Jersey Golf Club could look very attractive to hungry choughs. Photo by Royal Jersey Golf.

Lastly and very importantly are two sightings from one of our project partners in Trinity Parish. Regular readers will know that we are still trying to solve the mystery of the Trinity pair. Who are they and where do the roost (or nest back in summer)? Don your deerstalker hat, light the Holmes pipe, and ponder the latest clues. On 14th September, two choughs were seen flying over Petit Pré Woods at 19:10. They had been flying around the Royal Jersey Showground and headed off inland. With the sun setting at 19:22 that day it wouldn’t be long before they went to roost. Inland? Or a quick U-turn back to a coastal site? At dawn, on the 16th, two choughs were flying over Victoria Village. The ‘village’ (actually a housing estate) is 100 metres away from the showground as the chough flies. Two sightings in the same area, one going to bed, one leaving for the morning feed? Could we be closer to solving the mystery?

In other news

The choughs have welcomed a pair of jackdaws into their flock. Photo by Liz Corry.

The aviary at Sorel is starting to be used by more than just the choughs and our visiting barn owls and kestrel. A pair of jackdaws have been hanging around at the supplemental feed. They don’t interfere with the choughs or go inside the aviary. Think they just like the company.

Magpies on the other hand are known to go in the aviary. This month, for the first time, we have witnessed juvenile magpies go inside. Much like the chough parents bringing their fledglings to feed, the magpies have done the same. The choughs do not appear bothered and will defend their food supplies when they need to. The problem is with the young magpies who haven’t quite got to grips with how to get out of the aviary. When keepers arrive to feed, the magpies’ stress levels increase and they fling themselves into the netting in panic.

On two occasions the keeper trapped them in the aviary, caught them with a hand net and released them unharmed. It seemed like the best thing to do, but actually they need to learn how to get out by themselves. Otherwise the behaviour pattern happens all over again. The magpie in the video below eventually walked out of the aviary and flew away.

Less welcome at the aviary are rats. Many a curse word has been uttered when keepers find a new hole chewed in the netting. This month the rats stepped up their game. Keepers have seen a rat in the aviary during the daytime when the supplemental feed goes out. This has happened a few times. It poses a disease risk to the choughs as rat droppings and urine can fester harmful bacteria.

We have been extra vigilant when cleaning the water tray and dishes. Surfaces are already cleaned daily. I will be setting up traps and investigating options for rodent proofing. The up-turned guttering clearly isn’t deterring the Sorel rats (think agouti more than average lab rat!).

Birds in the Channel Islands – an update

A little later than most years, well 2020 has had its challenges; we are pleased to update the list of the bird species recorded in the Channel Islands. As in previous years, the list has been updated to include all birds recorded across the islands up to the end of the last year, in this case 2019. So no bearded vultures yet.

Firsts and other notable records

One species, booted warbler, joined the list after sightings in both Guernsey and Alderney in September. This warbler, more at home in eastern Europe and Central Asia, was the 378th species on our list.

There were further firsts for individual islands, a pallid harrier in Guernsey and a desert wheatear in Jersey while Alderney saw its first dusky warbler, barred warbler, thrush nightingale and olive-backed pipit.

Sark saw its second ever mute swan, Jersey a second pallid harrier and Caspian tern and Alderney its second common rosefinch. Jersey’s second and Guernsey’s third glossy ibis may be the sign of things to come as this waterbird increases its range and numbers, following on from all those egrets.

A good year for some

There were some notable arrivals in the islands with common cranes seen in Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney in October although numbers varied suggesting that while the birds may have all been from one migrating flock it didn’t seem that the same individuals were moving between islands.

Another much wanted species, European nightjar, was recorded on all four of our main islands in 2019 with one staying ten days in Sark in spring. The one autumn record was, sadly, of a dead bird picked up in Jersey. Cirl bunting continues to breed in Jersey but this year bred in Guernsey too where birds were present for much of the year: a single was seen in Alderney.

Updates

Away from the birds themselves, the latest report details local birding groups and how to contact them. A pleasing addition this year is the Facebook group Sark Bird Sightings

Competition?

There’s no way birders ever become competitive, but for the record there have been 338 bird species recorded in Jersey, 331 in Guernsey, 303 in Alderney and 227 in Sark. Alderney passed the magic 300 mark with their olive-backed pipit in April.

Download the updated report A Working List of the Birds of the Channel Islands here

Join The Global Bird Weekend 17 & 18 October 2020

From Global Birding

Global Birding would like to have as many people as possible join in the Global Bird Weekend 17 and 18 October.

Covid-19 Lockdown meant many people became more aware of their local natural surroundings.  They want everyone to celebrate the love for nature and birds across the world in their own local areas or “patch”.

Part of the weekend event will include eBird’s October Big Day when it is aimed to create a world record for the largest number of birds seen by the greatest number of people on this peak migration weekend.

It is hoped that at least 25,000 participants will go out birdwatching on Saturday 17 October 2020 and report what they see using eBird. The goal is to record more than 6,000 bird species!

How do I take part?

Global Birding are working in association with eBird, which is a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA. 

  1. Get an eBird account – this is free to all users
  2. On Saturday 17 October 2020, go out birdwatching and enjoy what you see – with family, friends, groups or just take time out on your own (register here).
  3. Enter what you see and/or here on eBird
  4. Watch the sightings roll in on eBird’s Global Bird Weekend October Big Day page
  5. Keep posting your photos and videos during the day on our social media pages #globalbirdweekend #globalbirding
  6. On Sunday 18 October 2020, add your own photos, videos, field sketches and messages to share your experiences with the global audience. Keep up to date on Global Birding’s social media pages over the weekend and beyond #globalbirdweekend #globalbirding,

This year, Global Birding is supporting BirdLife International’s vital conservation project to stop the illegal trade in birds. Did you know there are now more birds in cages in Java than in the country’s natural habitat?

Wall lizard – a true Jersey resident

By Nina Cornish

The common wall lizard Podarcis muralis is one of four species of reptile in Jersey with green lizard Lacerta bilineata, slow worm Anguis fragilis and grass snake Natrix helvetica. The green lizard and wall lizard are found nowhere else in the British Isles except for recently introduced populations of green lizards in Guernsey and England and around twenty separate introduced wall lizard colonies in the UK.

Wall lizards in Jersey live mainly in relatively small, fragmented populations around the east and north east coast, with some very small colonies found on the south coast. Their largest population is at Mont Orgueil Castle, St Martin.

Wall lizards are small and agile, with adults an average snout to vent length of 58.5mm but can grow up to 75 mm. They live for approximately 38 months in the wild and mate in April or May. Wall lizards are oviparous (produce young by means of eggs), with most females laying two clutches per year with an average of five eggs, typically in June and July under low growing vegetation exposed to sunshine. Adult males are the first to emerge from hibernation, generally in February, although unseasonably warm spells of weather can tempt them out in any of the winter months. The females tend to emerge later, usually in early March. In these early months the males become aggressive, chasing and fighting for territory and females.

 

Wall lizards exhibit tail autonomy, a function which allows the tail vertebrae to break by the lizard contracting it muscles in the tail. This is an important anti-predator mechanism in lacertid lizards, with tails being shed more easily in populations where levels of predation are high. In Jersey the wall lizards’ main predators are rats, certain birds like corvids and kestrels and domestic cats. The older an individual, the more likely it will have suffered the loss of its tail during its lifetime.

Wall lizard populations vary greatly in terms of colouring across their range, although males and females are do have different coloured patterns which allows identification in adults possible. Jersey female lizards can usually be identified as having pale back and side streaks, whereas males have more dark spots and blotches.  Both sexes have camouflage markings and coloration, on top of beige – olive coloured background, and with a lighter throat and belly, which can vary in colour from cream to bright orange, pink or red in males. Red throats and belly coloration are commonly observed in breeding males in Jersey.Habits

During the day, wall lizards constantly ‘shuttle’ between areas of light and shade, with the amount of time spent basking per day decreasing as the strength and duration of sunlight increases. As a result, in the early morning one can expect to see the most lizards as they emerge to bask, conversely the least at around midday when most are foraging or inactive in the shade.  Activity will then peak again in the late afternoon. Body temperature is regulated utilising this ‘shade mosaic’, i.e. the dappled light effect produced by partial vegetation cover. This means that an ideal situation in terms of vegetation cover would be partial cover in some areas, suitable for foraging and protection from predators with an adjacent area on which to bask and display social, sexual and territorial behaviour. 

 

Wall lizards spend much of the day foraging. In Jersey they feed mainly on Hemiptera (true bugs), Isopoda (woodlice), Hymenoptera (bees, ants etc), Arachneae (spiders), Dermaptera (earwigs), Orthoptera (grasshoppers), Lepidoptera larvae (caterpillars) and Annelids (earthworms). The type of prey varies between sites, not as a matter of preference, more of whatever types of invertebrates are prevalent at each location.

The story behind their distribution and origins

Wall lizards on Jersey are near the northern limit of their geographical range. The species has a wide distribution in continental Europe including France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and the Balkan region, with the northernmost limit of distribution being Maastricht in the Netherlands.

As the name suggests, the wall lizard is most often seen on vertical surfaces including cliffs, rock piles and walls and are especially associated with human habitations. The Jersey populations are typical of other northern European localities in that they are mainly restricted specifically to walls of houses, gardens, fortifications and castles and are widely used provided they are south-facing and have refuges like holes, piles of debris and some form of vegetation cover nearby. Outside the foraging home range of around 15-25 m2, sightings of wall lizard rapidly decrease from the exterior of the forts that they inhabit.

The distribution of wall lizards on Jersey has never really been explained. Despite some intensive local research, no-one has been able to prove why they have such a fragmented distribution or why they have not spread over the Island despite there being large areas of suitable habitat on the north and west coasts. Jersey’s wall lizard presence and distribution was first mentioned in Ansted & Latham’s 1865 The Channel Islands. It stated that wall lizards (although first mistaken for sand lizards), were comparatively rare and were limited to certain districts in the Island. By 1907, Sinel (Notes on the Lizards of the Channel Islands) recorded wall lizards from the cliff, rocks and walls off a thin coastal belt from the east to the north-east coast of Jersey (Le Sueur, 1976). Sinel (1908: The Reptilia, Batrachia, and Mammalia of the Channel Islands, their Origin and Modification by Isolation) also mentions a very interesting historic account concerning French prisoners being held in the Napoleonic forts after the Battle of Jersey (1781) when France attempted to invade Jersey. During this period French prisoners were imprisoned in the Napoleonic forts and it was suggested that they kept wall lizards as pets. Whether these were pets they bought with them or lizards they captured while being imprisoned is uncertain. Alternatively, colonisation could have occurred subsequent to Jersey becoming isolation via rafting (lizards hitching rides on natural materials blown out to sea) or the transportation of quarried granite, between France, Chausey and Jersey.  It has been documented that lizards in Jersey were part of a wider pet trade, with lizards being sent from Jersey to England as far back as 1761. Sinel stated in 1908 that ‘The Green lizard is becoming very scarce. This is partly due to the dealers, who have set a price upon its head’. Pyecraft (1927: Jade green lizards of Jersey) wrote ‘The wall lizard, in the locality where I found it, swarmed, but wild horses will not drag from me the place of its retreat, lest a demand be created for specimens.  The consequent exploitation by dealers could exterminate it in a single summer!’ By 1947, the pet trade in lizards had reached such proportions that the States of Jersey passed the Wildlife Protection (Jersey) Law 1947, which prohibited the buying, selling, exportation or killing of all reptiles and amphibians of Jersey, as a measure to control the roaring trade for these animals as pets destined for England.

In 1976, Frances Le Sueur published the first distribution map of wall lizards (included below) demonstrating their distribution to be substantially the same distribution as recorded by Sinel in 1907. Since 1976, the wall lizard has been recorded in an additional three-kilometre squares.

In 1988, Chris Perkins (1989: The biology and conservation of the green lizard and wall lizard in Jersey) carried out an Island survey of both wall and green lizards and in 1997, Rosie Smith (2000: Census of Jersey wall lizards Podarcis muralis and ecological correlates of distribution at fort sites in Jersey) studied their distribution and ecology. In 2008 the States of Jersey carried out a public survey to determine the distribution of green and wall lizards. Both St Aubin’s Fort and some very small populations in public and private gardens along the south coast were added to their known distribution. Presence in these areas is thought to be through accidental introductions carried out sometime in the 20th Century.

Distribution map 1965-2005

The lizards fragmented distribution could be partially due to Jersey being on the extreme edge of their distribution. Jersey’s wall lizards may only be able to utilise small areas of suitable habitat due to its northern range (Strijbosch et al. 1980) or their patchy and restricted distribution on the north-eastern, eastern and south coast could have been through introduction following the construction of these forts and towers.

To determine Jersey’s wall lizards’ origins and genetic fitness, a study was carried out to investigate the phylogeography and genetic structure of peripheral populations on Jersey (Channel Islands) and the French Chausey archipelago. In 2014, mitochondrial DNA (cytochrome b gene) from 200 individuals was sequenced to infer the phylogeography of the island populations using Bayesian approaches. In addition, 484 individuals from 21 populations at 10 polymorphic microsatellite loci were genotyped to evaluate the genetic structure and diversity of island and mainland (Western France) populations.

The data provided strong evidence that the wall lizard populations on Jersey and Chausey belong to a single origin. Furthermore, the analyses suggest that this mtDNA clade was isolated from mainland Europe for a long period of time and should be considered native. The origin of the wall lizards on Jersey and Chausey Islands appears to result from increasing sea levels 7,000 BP, isolating island populations from each other, creating independent population histories and hence divergence. It remains possible, however, that there has been occasional gene flow between islands. This could explain the presence of lizards on very small islets in the Chausey archipelago which are unlikely to be large enough to sustain populations for thousands of years independently. In addition, the presence of the most common haplotype (genetic ancestor) in mainland France appeared on the island of Chausey. This might provide evidence of occasional geneflow between mainland France and the islands via retention of ancestral genetic variation or a more recent introduction.

Anecdotal evidence also suggested that human mediated dispersal might be the most likely explanation for one of the four current locations in Jersey, the population on St. Aubin Fort. Although our mtDNA data revealed a different haplotype from other Jersey populations, the nucDNA clusters all Jersey populations together. This suggests that the source population was most likely animals from other Jersey populations and that the difference in haplotype represents a founder effect (the loss of genetic variation that occurs when a new population is established by a very small number of individuals from a larger population). Overall, these results confirm the suspected native status of Jersey and Chausey wall lizards. Thus, the lower genetic diversity of island populations compared to the mainland populations is expected given the lack of gene flow. This may have significant implication for the long-term persistence of the species on Jersey and Chausey Islands. However, since our data suggests the species have been present on the islands for thousands of years it might have already been subject to a severe genetic bottleneck. The species might also have undergone a substantial reduction in abundance more recently.

As this study clarified the native status of the wall lizard population on Jersey, it validates its current full protection status sunder the Conservation of Wildlife (Jersey) Law 2000 (as amended). The law prohibits the unlicensed taking, sale, keeping, injury and destruction of places for shelter (e.g. nest, dens or burrows) and disturbance of any resident animals. Given our results, it is important that Jerseys conservation planners recognise the wall lizard’s restricted distribution, vulnerability to future inbreeding depression, susceptibility to disease, predation and the island’s ever-increasing urban development when determining species management strategies. For instance, should the granite walls and ramparts of historic fortresses where lizards are at highest abundance be developed or destroyed, the population’s continued survival could be at risk. The lizard’s long-term conservation status will depend upon increasing habitat connectivity, especially via coastline protection, connecting their north-eastern and eastern coast populations on the island.

How they are doing?

The most current population estimates were made by Perkins (1988) and Smith (1997) at specific Jersey forts and towers. Due to their protection, restricted distribution and vulnerability there is a need to monitor populations. In 2007 the National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme (NARRS) was launched in Jersey by the States of Jersey Department of the Environment (now Natural Environment) as part of its integrated ecological monitoring programme. The scheme was developed by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) and has been run in partnership with Natural Environment and Jersey Amphibian and Reptile Group (JARG) over a 12-year period (2007-2018) to assess and detect changes in the conservation status of Jersey’s native amphibians and reptiles.

In 2019 12-years of NARRS data was analysed to determine changes in occupancy and distribution of Jersey’s native amphibians and reptiles. The result of these analyses determined wall lizard are still restricted to coastal localities. The scheme was not able to determine the wall lizard’s detectability due to their restricted distribution and during the 12-year survey period their occupancy on the island decreased.  Additional data was sourced from the Jersey Biodiversity Centre which showed occupancy to have remained stable. The restricted distribution combined with uninformative detection and occupancy results indicate NARRS is not well suited to monitoring wall lizards being better for more widespread species. As a result, the agile frog, grass snake and wall lizard, being rarer and / or more restricted in their distributions, require monitoring with separate surveys. Therefore, future monitoring should (i) apply survey methods specific to the species, (ii) focus on determining species occupancy status at known and suspected sites and (iii) aim to better understand the factors driving species occupancy and detection.

In 2019 new monitoring schemes were designed for amphibian and reptiles with robust and practical data collection in mind. Reptilewatch JE was created with the aim to detect changes in the conservation status of Jersey’s reptiles, through changes in occupancy (levels 1 and 2 surveys) and detect site-level population changes (level 3 surveys). Level 2 Wall Lizard Survey was created to specifically consider Jersey’s wall lizards’ restricted distribution.

 How can you help?

We are looking to recruit ‘Wild Volunteers’ to join our Reptilewatch JE team and search for wall lizards at known and suspected wall lizard sites. Wall lizard surveyors are required to carry out six surveys, between March and October, spending 30 minutes at each site visually searching (either walking or looking from a fixed vantage point). You will need training at one of our training events, but no previous experience is needed. Please contact wildaboutJersey@gov.je  or go to the Jersey Amphibian Reptile Group (JARG) Reptilewatch JE webpage for more information. There are opportunities for everyone to get involved, with three levels of surveys depending on your interest, available time and experience.

Download the report Phylogeography and conservation genetics of the common wall lizard, Podarcis muralis, on islands at its northern range here 

Jersey Great Garden Bat Watch coming to a garden near you 6-7th June

Pipistrellus nathusii photo taken under licence by Miranda Collett Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th June, 20:55 until 22:00

From Jersey Bat Group

Please join the Jersey Bat Group for the second Great Garden Bat Watch!

This event combines the joy of (hopefully!) watching bats with citizen science-based research that can help us better understand bats across Jersey.

The Group are particularly keen to receive sightings of bats from St Helier and other urban areas around the Island to help with their research into Jersey’s urban bat populations.

We are asking if you could look for bats on the 6th and 7th June, but please do feel free to use the form (below) to submit your bat sightings throughout the summer.

However: if you are submitting sightings on dates other than 6th and 7th June then, to get the right timings, please go to sunset times here and ensure that you are outside looking for bats at least 15 minutes before sunset. That way you will ensure you spot the first bats…though it may mean you wait up to 30 minutes before seeing your first one.

Les Augres Manor, a good place to spot bats. Photo by Glyn Young

The Great Garden Bat Watch

We are asking you to go into your garden, or to an open space near your house or really anywhere in the Island to look for bats.

We ask that you do this whilst maintaining social distancing and by following any other requirements of the Government of Jersey’s safe exit framework.

  • Main event: Saturday 6th or Sunday 7th June (or both!)
  • Where: Any outside space (garden, park, lane, beach)
  • What time: From 20:55 until 22.00

You do not need a bat detector as we are not asking you to identify bat species, all you need to note down is:

  • The time you saw the first bat
  • The direction the bat flew from
  • Details of the recorder, date and location

Great Garden Bat Watch data entry form

We are working in conjunction with the Jersey Biodiversity Centre who have designed a bespoke data entry form for you to enter your sightings –  through the form here.

If you manage to take any photos or videos of bats in flight during the Great Garden Bat Watch then please post them in the comments box for this event on the Jersey Bat Group Facebook page or email them to the Jersey Bat Group

We look forward to receiving news of your local bats!

For any further details about the bat watch or to submit your data by email then please email the Jersey Bat Group

Happy bat watching!

Myotis nattereri photo taken under licence by Amy Hall

Jersey’s birdwatching and bird photography code of conduct updated

By Romano da Costa and Glyn Young

Many bird species in Jersey are endangered locally or globally. Their survival depends on their chances to feed and breed safely. Birdwatching and bird photography may cause disturbance to birds, and, in certain circumstances, this disturbance might cause them harm or even death. The following is a simple good practice code of conduct that puts the interest of birds first and offers simple advice on how to enjoy birdwatching and bird photography whilst minimising the disturbance to the birds or their habitats:

  1. Avoid getting too close to birds, if a bird flies away you’re too close! Do not be tempted to keep chasing the bird (some birds will freeze when approached). If a bird is making repeated alarm calls you are also too close
  2. Stay on roads, footpaths or in bird hides to avoid going too close to birds or walking through their habitats. Disturbing habitats is just as bad as disturbing the bird itself
  3. Think about your fieldcraft. Disturbance is not just about going too close – a flock of wading birds on the foreshore can be disturbed from a distance if you stand on the seawall or walk directly towards them while a bird of prey on a kill will abandon it if you get too close!
  4. DO NOT use playback or birdsong recordings to lure out hidden birds or to make them sing at any time of year. Provoking this behaviour may cause unnecessary stress to the bird, make it waste vital energy, keep it from feeding its mate or young, and put it at increased risk from predators. You may also be breaking the Law
  5. DO NOT use flash when photographing birds at night. This might distract the birds or daze them, making them more vulnerable to predators
  6. Know the law: Disturbing a wild bird feeding, roosting or at its nest or nesting area is an offence under the Conservation of Wildlife (Jersey) Law 2000
  7. Make your sightings count: Report your observations in the records book at the hides or
  8. If you witness anyone who you suspect may be illegally disturbing or destroying wildlife or its habitat, phone the Police on 01534 612612 or the Department of the Environment on 01534 441600.

A copy of the code can be downloaded here

Jersey’s cirl buntings in spring 2020

 
When cirl buntings returned to Jersey after an 8-year absence in 2011, we waited anxiously to see whether they could fully recolonise (see update). We knew that there was adequate nesting habitat available, not least as their hosts, Royal Jersey Golf Club, were happy to help them. The limiting factor seemed to be the availability of adequate food in the winter when the buntings live out in the fields. We sought advice, not least from the RSPB’s Cath Jeffs, developed a plan for the buntings and it was suggested that we provide grain for them in winter and have done this each year (many thanks to Richard Perchard), the buntings quickly learning to use the special feeders. 
 
 
So, how are our buntings doing now? A good walk around the golf-less golf course by Mick Dryden on 3rd May found buntings at six sites. Our recording of the sites is easy as golf clubs, unsurprisingly, number and map their course. However, while the buntings’ presence on the course is widely known, to avoid disturbance we have removed those numbers and replaced with sites (below). Please respect the Royal Jersey Golf Club’s course, the neighbours and, of course, these rare birds who’s foothold in the Channel Islands is still very vulnerable. Here are Mick’s findings: 
  • Site 1. A pair of cirls at the northern end of the gorse, on the road side both feeding together (female above and male at bottom of page)
  • Site 2. A pair at the usual area, both feeding together
  • Site 3. A second male in the large trees, close to the Site 2, singing strongly and flying out to the centre of the course to sing again
  • Site 4. A third pair together on their usual area
  • Site 5 A fourth pair together in the tree. These flew down to the cut down area
  • Site 6. A male singing strongly and holding territory. I didn’t see a female with this one.
So, four pairs plus two additional males = 10 birds. This is at the start of the breeding season and Mick’s survey in 2016 found 17 birds including eight young from three pairs in July, after they’d bred that year.  So, 10 years on from their return, our cirl buntings are still here and, while still vulnerable, they are definitely hanging on.